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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Four Palestinians killed in new wave of violence over US Jerusalem move

The violence comes days before US vice president Mike Pence is due to visit Israel, though he will no longer see Palestinian officials after they cancelled meetings in protest at the embassy move

Palestinian protesters run for cover during clashes near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City on December 15, 2017. Mohammed Saber / EPA
Palestinian protesters run for cover during clashes near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City on December 15, 2017. Mohammed Saber / EPA

Four Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded on Friday in clashes with Israeli forces as tens of thousands demonstrated against Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

President Donald Trump's December 6 announcement that he would break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem has stirred global condemnation, as well as demonstrations across Arab and Muslim countries.

On Friday, three men were killed in clashes between Israeli troops and stone-throwing Palestinians.

Two died along the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said, after the Hamas Islamist group that rules the enclave had called for another "day of rage".

A third Palestinian was killed in clashes north of Jerusalem after being shot dead in the chest by the Israeli army, the ministry said.

The fourth stabbed an Israeli border police officer near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, before being shot, police said.

The assailant, who later died of his wounds, wore what appeared to be a suicide vest, though it was unclear if it was operational.

Read more: UAE's Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed discusses US Jerusalem move with King Salman of Saudi Arabia

The violence comes days before US vice president Mike Pence is due to visit Israel, though he will no longer see Palestinian officials after they cancelled meetings in protest at the embassy move.

"We understand that the Palestinians may need a bit of a cooling off period, that's fine," a senior White House official said on Friday. "We will be ready when the Palestinians are ready to re-engage."

Pence is expected to try to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward after he lands in Jerusalem on Wednesday, US administration officials have said.

"Obviously the last couple of weeks in the region have been a reaction to the Jerusalem decision," said a second senior administration official.

Protests erupted across the West Bank after Friday weekly prayers, often a catalyst for clashes between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops clash near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City on December 15, 2017. Mohammed Saber / EPA
Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops clash near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City on December 15, 2017. Mohammed Saber / EPA

In Gaza, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and a few thousand clashed with Israeli forces along different parts of the border.

The Palestinian health ministry said 164 people were injured in Gaza, with five in serious condition, and more than 100 were hospitalised in the West Bank.

Israel's army said around 2,500 people were involved in "riots" in the West Bank and about 3,500 in Gaza.

Friday's deaths brought to eight the number of Palestinians killed in violence or air strikes since Mr Trump's Jerusalem move.

Four men were killed in Gaza last week, two in protests. Two Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli air strike.

Read more: Pence delays abbreviated Middle East trip

In Jordan, thousands of people also demonstrated on Friday in the latest round of protests called by the Muslim Brotherhood, burning Israeli and American flags.

The diplomatic fallout continued, with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling Mr Trump's decision a "bomb" thrown at the entire Middle East.

He called Israel a "terror state" and said: "Trying to make Jerusalem capital of a terror state is not a situation that can be accepted by Muslims."

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops clash near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City, on December 15, 2017. Mohammed Saber / EPA
Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops clash near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City, on December 15, 2017. Mohammed Saber / EPA

For decades global powers have avoided taking an opinion, keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv instead.

Mr Trump declared, however, that he would move the embassy and has recognised the city as Israel's capital.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will not meet Mr Pence next week and has warned that Washington no longer had a role to play in the peace process.

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